Otto and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch made history in October by successfully making the first delivery by a self-driving truck.
Last week, one of Otto’s self-driving truck prototypes traveled 120 miles on a stretch of Colorado highway between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs to deliver 51,744 cans of Budweiser beer.
According to Otto, a professional driver assisted the truck on the entrance and exit ramps but could spend the rest of the time in a sleeper berth at the rear. Anheuser-Busch paid $470 for the service, which is the market rate.
Otto is a startup company working on self-driving technology for transport trucks. It was bought in August by ride-sharing giant Uber, which is working to revolutionize personal transport via self-driving technology.
Otto self-driving truck prototype
Otto's self-driving system relies on cameras, radar, and lidar sensors mounted on the vehicle to see the world around it and then adjust the acceleration, braking and steering to suit. Otto says the technology will allow truck drivers to rest during long stretches of highway driving, though development is ongoing and the technology is yet to receive approval from lawmakers outside of testing.
However, as the technology and law surrounding self-driving vehicles evolves, it’s likely the role of the truck driver, just like other professional drivers, will become obsolete or the demand for their services dramatically reduced.
There’s big money to be made for any company that can successfully develop the technology. In the United States, trucking is a $700 billion industry and roughly a third of that figure is driver compensation.
Uber, via Otto, isn’t the only company chasing this potential. Mercedes-Benz’s parent company Daimler is also developing self-driving trucks, and Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA], which is also developing self-driving technology, has indicated that it would like to get into the trucking business.